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9.4

Beginning to understand idioms


Why is this important?
An idiom is a phrase where the words, when put together, have a meaning
which is different from that of the words when used individually (e.g. ‘Pull
your socks up’ has nothing to do with the action of pulling or socks). This
makes idioms tricky to understand and learn, but there are lots of them in
the English language.

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What to do
• Compile a list of idioms/phrases/sayings that are used on a regular basis, e.g.
★ ‘On the other hand.’ ★ ‘Don’t cry over spilt milk.’
★ ‘Raining cats and dogs.’ ★ ‘Pulling your leg.’
★ ‘A piece of cake.’ ★ ‘Feeling under the weather.’
• Choose one idiom at a time and write down two or three alternatives to the
meaning (e.g. for ‘Pull your socks up’):
★ Make sure your socks are always tidy. ★ Try harder.
★ Put your socks away tidily.
• Ask the child to say what he/she thinks the idiom means. Talk through the options. Put the idiom in a scenario. For example, a girl is doing her numbers in school. The teacher knows she is good at number work and says ‘Come on Emily, pull your socks up and then you can go out to play’.
• Work through various idioms and try to use examples in everyday conversation
which illustrate how idioms are used and what they mean. If you hear someone
use an idiom, comment on it and explain the meaning.

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